Launching into France's already crowded distribution market, the newly formed TFM - a joint venture between US mini-major Miramax and broadcaster TF1 - has cut its teeth with its first French release.
Steven Soderbergh's Full Frontal was sent out on 24 screens in the capital on October 2 to lukewarm response. Earning $18,000, the film was 6th for the day - albeit in a week that also saw the release of the Spielberg/Cruise collaboration Minority Report.
CEO Perrine Teze told Screen International that she might have hoped for a better baptism. However, considering that the film did not perform well in the States and is not as splashy as Soderbergh's last few efforts - plus TFM's brand new team has only had since August 20th to work with the film - it's not such a bad start.
Meanwhile, the new operation has many prestigious potential earners on its upcoming slate. They include The Four Feathers, The Hours with Meryl Streep and George Clooney's directorial debut Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. TFM is already gearing up for late 2003 which will mark the return of Quentin Tarantino with Kill Bill.
The creation of TFM was announced at Cannes in May and has since been the subject of much speculation in the local industry. Some are worried about the arrival of a major American in partnership with the French. Others see it as deal which will be good for both industries. (Not so good for Jean Labadie and Bac Distribution - Bac and Miramax are locked in a legal wrangle over Miramax having pulled out of their output deal with Bac.)
But none of this has worried TFM, "I haven't felt any animosity. I've actually had a lot of distributors wish us good luck. The market is such a difficult one that a new player can mean a breath of fresh air," contends Teze.
Indeed, Teze is well-liked within the industry having worked at Ciby 2000 in London and then heading up sales boutique TF1 International. If people are sceptical at all about TFM it is more because they worry about a company that has so much cash overwhelming the marketplace while some just don't believe in the relationship.
A rival distributor says, "Miramax will have big films and TF1 probably won't. This type of association is very dangerous. It'll be a hell of a day when they both want the same film in acquisition and Miramax wants the European rights."
"I do not see a problem," argues Teze. "Maybe the companies would buy together. Why would we have more problems than any other joint-venture'"
TFM will not acquire films itself - either partner will acquire them separately or together but never under the aegis of TFM, according to Teze. As for finances, Miramax and TF1 pay their own p&a for their own films and recoup on box office seperately.
While there are no Miramax employees in TFM's Paris offices, Teze says she is pleased that the US partners are very involved in the day to day running of the company. "We discuss everything with them. They approve everything and since they're Americans they are very direct which is a nice way to work."
TFM's team was put together quickly since the Cannes announcement and includes some former TF1 International and UGC staffers. For the time being there are 11 employees in total comprised of marketing, programming, administrative and technical staff. A head of finance and 2 accountants will be added shortly says Teze.
As the company is something of a hybrid, working with boutique foreign titles and major American independent film, is there room for the two types coming from the same machine' Teze believes so although she admits it is often easier to market French films because French actors are more readily available to do press junkets in the provinces than most American talent.
For Bienvenue Chez les Rozes, from in-house TF1 producer Charles Gassot, a 30-40 town press tour is being planned with the French actors. But, TFM is making sure the Americans play the game as well - a bevy of press and marketing is already planned for the December release of Sundance hit Tadpole for which TFM will play on something the French can appreciate: the cultural phenomenon of an older woman seducing a younger man.